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Norwegian by Night (A Sheldon Horowitz Novel) Paperback – May 6, 2014
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Best of 2013, The Guardian
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Best of 2013, The Economist
"Has the brains of a literary novel and the body of a thriller."
-- New York Times
From the Back Cover
A FINANCIAL TIMES BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
A GUARDIAN BEST CRIME AND THRILLER OF THE YEAR
A KIRKUS REVIEWS BEST CRIME NOVEL OF THE YEAR
A soulful, humane, and sparklingly funny novel. Spend some time with Sheldon and company in the Scandinavian wilderness and you just might make peace with your god, your ghosts, and yourself. Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story
Sheldon Horowitz widowed, impatient, impertinent has grudgingly agreed to leave New York and move in with his granddaughter, Rhea, and her new husband, Lars, in Norway a country of blue and ice with one thousand Jews, not one of them a former Marine sniper in the Korean War turned watch repairman. Not until now, anyway.
Home alone one morning, Sheldon witnesses a dispute between the woman who lives upstairs and an aggressive stranger. When events turn dire, Sheldon seizes and shields the neighbor s young son from the violence, and they flee the scene. As Sheldon and the boy look for a safe haven in an alien world, past and present weave together, forcing them ever forward to a wrenching moment of truth.
This is one of the best books of the season, of any genre. Buffalo News
Miller joins the ranks of Stieg Larsson, Henning Mankell, and Jo Nesbo, the holy trinity of Scandinavian crime novelists. Booklist (starred review)
AN INDIE NEXT SELECTION
[author photo] DEREK B. MILLER is the director of the Policy Lab and is a senior fellow with the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research. Born and raised in Boston, he has lived abroad for more than fifteen years, in Norway, Switzerland, Britain, Israel, and Hungary. He now lives in Oslo with his wife and two children.
- Publisher : Mariner Books; Reprint edition (May 6, 2014)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 304 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0544292669
- ISBN-13 : 978-0544292666
- Item Weight : 8.3 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.31 x 0.83 x 8 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #70,501 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Sheldon is living in Oslo with his granddaughter Rhea and her Norwegian husband, Lars. Their lives are changed forever when Sheldon witnesses a fight that involves a neighbor woman and takes the woman’s son under his wing for protection. Sheldon and the boy embark on a journey which takes them over a lot of Norway’s terrain for much of the book. There’s an obvious language problem because the boy doesn’t understand English and Sheldon doesn’t speak much Norwegian or the boy’s native tongue. The man who was arguing with Sheldon’s neighbor is named Enver Berisha, a pretty evil dude from Kosovo who has a personal stake involving the boy whom Sheldon is protecting. Sheldon doesn’t know the boy’s name but decides to call him Paul.
A small digression here. Sheldon’s son was named Saul and did a Viet Nam tour of duty in the Navy, patrolling the Mekong Delta with a group called the River Rats. Saul was killed in action. In biblical times, Saul of Tarsus was thrown from his horse on the road to Damascus by an act of God, an event causing him to convert to Christianity and change his name to Paul. It’s a clever allegory and prompts one to readily accept that the boy named Paul is a quasi-reincarnation of Sheldon’s son Saul.
Sheldon and Paul make their escape over the Norwegian landscape by hitching rides with strangers and “borrowing” a boat when a canal works better than land. The plot is not strictly linear because Sheldon has many flashbacks and often talks to himself, to Paul, and converses with former Marines who are no longer alive.
There are some inaccuracies regarding aspects of Marine training but they don’t detract from the overall enjoyment of the story. The plot builds steadily to a satisfying and exciting but abrupt ending.
Sheldon, aka Donny, Horowitz is an 82 year old Jewish man living in New York City after the death of his wife. His granddaughter convinces him to move to Norway to live with her and her husband. Sheldon’s wife and granddaughter both think he is demented and needs looking after. Sheldon reluctantly moves and while he is still dealing with culture shock, he witnesses a murder in his apartment building. A young woman is killed and Sheldon rescues her son and tries to hide him from the killers. If successful, this is redemption for Sheldon who feels responsible for sending his only son to the Vietnam war. Sheldon and the boy are pursued by both the killer and an interesting female police chief. There is a dramatic final scene and the outcome remains unclear. Usually, I enjoy an ending that is open to interpretation, but this time it was just confusing and annoying.
My interest in this story waxed and waned throughout the book and I was glad to be done with it. There are a lot of flashback scenes, which I assume are intended to make you wonder about Sheldon’s mental state. Personally, I correctly pegged his mental state early on. I thought the writing was fine but not spectacular. I am actually surprised that this book is so lauded by book critics and reviewers. Perhaps if I had paid more attention to the plot summary, I would have been in a different mind set and enjoyed the book more. Perhaps I would have never purchased it in the first place.
American, octogenarian, ex-Marine, Jewish, possibly demented, Shelton Horowitz, is on the run in Norway hiding a young boy whose mother was brutally murdered. From there you won't be able to turn the pages fast enough. With scenes from the Vietnam war as well as the Korean war, Miller, paints us a picture of a patriot...and adds a soupcon of magic realism. Maybe.
So read this, and by all means read, "The Girl in Green"! I hope we don't have to wait too long for Miller's next novel!
Will read it again to savor the parts I remember and discover the parts I didn't quite get. And it will be my selection for our book group.
Top reviews from other countries
As much a meditation on parenting, being Jewish in America, grief, war, and regret as a plot-driven thriller. Sheldon Horowitz is a flawed hero for all ages. Sadly, I'm not holding my breath for the sequel.
Set, incongruously but very satisfactorily, against the backdrop of the Korean war and the Serbian - Kosovan conflict in former Yugoslavia, this is the story of Sheldon, an elderly Jewish man uprooted from his New York home to settle, reluctantly, in a run down area of Oslo with his granddaughter and her Norwegian husband. From its initial introspective and domestic scenes, it soon becomes a thrilling chase when a woman’s brutal murder compels Sheldon to go on the run with her small son.
Nevertheless, Norwegian by Night is so much more than a well-written thriller. So much more. Picking out any one theme from this book would be to do it a disservice, as there are so many. Love, loss, regret, ethnicity, war and peace, family, adventure – all woven into a seamless tapestry that moves effortlessly from the Balkan warzones to Vietnam to the dense Norwegian forest. Backwards and forwards in time, threading present with past, memory with reality.
While all the characters are well drawn and believable, even those who play minor roles, it is Sheldon who makes the book what it is. At this point I can’t prevent myself quoting from the author’s acknowledgements. “I am not sure how much of this book was written by me and how much was written by Sheldon himself. So I extend here my thanks to him for all his assistance. Which isn’t to say he was easy to work with.’ And this is what makes the book so special. Sheldon comes alive to the extent that, reading that acknowledgement, I find myself wondering – was he in fact a real person? Was he someone who collaborated with the author to create the story? I don’t think so, except in the sense that so often it’s characters make the decisions, not the authors.
So here you have this prickly old man, over eighty, with his regrets and his idiosyncrasies. His sharp edges and his, often well hidden, tenderness. Is he a reliable narrator or is he suffering from dementia? Did he serve in the army as a clerk, as he first told his wife, or was he a sniper as he later claimed, to her disbelief? Is this just a manifestation of his declining years? He speaks to his dead comrades. He mourns his son Saul and blames himself for his death. Yet he has the presence of mind to keep one step ahead of his enemies.
I was astonished to discover that this is a debut novel. The author’s background in policy and international relations and security serves him, and us, well in this nuanced and sophisticated book. A book moreover which pulls off the difficult feat of keeping the tension and interest going – and keeping us guessing - right to the very end. However, I believe his greatest achievement is Sheldon. A living, breathing mass of contradictions and emotions. So real you want to reach out and hug him. If he’d let you. Which he probably wouldn’t.